Sunday, 27 April 2014

Dave Lamb's Top 25 games of all time (10-1)

Carrying on from 25-11 here's my top 10 games of all time.

10. Shenmue
Many people will think I’m crazy for placing Shenmue in my top ten but I think it’s severely underrated. The story surrounding its creation is remarkable. A game which allegedly cost $47 million to produce in 1999. It would have required everyone with a Dreamcast to purchase the game twice to make a profit! This game took the excellent fighting system from Virtua Fighter series and expanded it into an open world with many more aspects of gameplay. Metal Gear Solid introduced us to games that felt like an action movie but Shenmue is a game where you step into the life of a character in an action movie. The level of graphical presentation had also greatly increased by this time which made me feel this was another benchmark of what was possible in games.

9. Portal 2 
Portal 2 is my favourite puzzle game of all time, but maybe the best way to describe it is a first person shooter mixed with a puzzle game. The game features brilliantly designed puzzles using the ingenious mechanics of placing portals around each room. The game is brought together with some hilarious writing and excellent voice acting. The challenges are never tedious and are always satisfying to solve. The first entry in this series is also worth a huge amount of praise. However it was slightly short and Portal 2 managed to make a larger and deeper experience, while adding in an excellent co-op mode for you to enjoy with a friend.

8. Grim Fandango
Grim Fandango is a dark comedy neo-noir adventure game that I love to death. It’s the best adventure game I’ve ever played and if you missed it’s well worth revisiting. The artwork in this game is incredible but it’s the characters and story that make it stand out. Grim Fandango features outstanding voice acting to bring every character to life and cement the varying concepts behind each of them. This game also made me start to view video games as an art form due to its neo noir style. I’m thrilled that the museum of modern art is adding this game to a permanent exhibition that showcases video games as art. MoMA - Video games as art

Grim Fandango sales were poor despite the very positive reception of the game. This was taken as a sign that the adventure genre was commercially dead. The video game market was turning towards action-based games but again, there’s a large story behind that one too.

7. Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2 is a terrifying game with one of the most intense atmospheres I’ve ever experienced. It’s a deep adventure that's scary and disturbing which could not be achieved through anything other medium. When I played Silent Hill 2 did it with a friend because playing this game by yourself can really put you on edge. You know, a problem shared is a problem halved and you need all the help you can get with this game. The reason horror games work so well is because you genuinely feel fear for your characters safety. Silent Hill creates a town where you never know what strange experience may occur next. Most of the characters you meet seem blissfully unaware of the horrors unfolding and this is where the game can really start to mess with your head. You start to feel unsure of what’s real and what’s not. Is this all occurring in the protagonists head or is the town messing with you? This helps create a great sense of despair that makes this game my favourite horror game of all time.

6. Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect is in my view, the best trilogy ever created in video games. It’s a comprehensive experience where actions from the first game carry through to the final act. The game is a perfect blend of the action and role playing genres. You are given the freedom to shape the story through the many choices and dialogue options, making it one of the most personal games you’ll ever play. The writing is excellent, the voice acting is excellent, in fact, pick any aspect of Mass Effect and you will find that it’s above many other games. The characters you meet are so strong they will be engraved in your brain for many years to come. Mass effect 2 is the strongest game in the series but the trilogy should be played throughout as your character and decisions are imported from game to game. Every gamer should experience this trilogy regardless of their genre preference.  

5. Bioshock
Bioshock is a work of art, it may still have all the violence and action of a first person shooter but that doesn’t detract from its artistic nature. The game's developers drew heavily on literary fiction such as Atlas Shrugged, which leads to themes few developers are willing to tackle. The game follows the story of Andrew Ryan, an individual who has rejected society's ideas of capitalism, socialism and religion. He has withdrawn from the world and built his own city under the sea. You play a nameless character who arrives at the city where it becomes immediately clear Andrew Ryan’s vision has failed catastrophically. 

You are left to explore the decaying city containing the horrors of genetic modification which sent people insane. The game has a brilliant atmosphere which often uses terror juxtaposed with humour. The world here is so cohesive you get the sense this world could actually exist. The game also has some excellent action. There’s a deep combat system the combines the use of special attacks named plasmids with gunplay to provide the player with endless variety. This game reaches some notes that were previously untouched in video games which is why I believe it’s one of the best games ever created. 

4. Shadow of the Colossus
Sometimes people talk about boss fights being their favourite part of a game. With that in mind a very talented studio from Japan made a game which is essentially just 16 boss fights. However, they made them the best boss fights you will ever experience. But maybe the phrase “boss fight” isn’t even applicable here. The genius of each boss is that it’s a giant puzzle. You are trying to fathom how your comparatively tiny character can reach the colossus and navigate to its weak point without being crushed and maimed. This brilliant experience is combined with superb art direction, a gorgeous world to explore and a very fine example of how to convey emotion through gameplay. Shadow of the Colossus uniqueness is the reason it ranks so highly on my list and I believe any self-respecting gamer should play it.

3. The Last of Us
The Last of Us is the reason I say to people they are missing out by not playing video games. It’s been hailed as the “HBO” of video games and I whole heartedly believe it is. It proves you can have cinema quality presentation while combining it with the interactivity of a video game. To me, it sums up the true potential of video games. They can tell a heartfelt story about characters you care for but also immerse you deeply through its interactive elements, something that still isn't standard in video game narratives. This game almost takes it for granted that the gameplay is rock-solid and shifts its focus to the writing and story. It’s a beautifully written and has expert voice acting. You only need to compare the voice acting in this game to the first Resident Evil title to see just how far video games have come. The Last of Us is a masterpiece that will be remembered for many years to come.

Have a look at the videos below and compare the voice acting and presentation of Resident Evil to The Last of Us .

Resident Evil (1996)

Last of Us (2013)

2. Super Mario 64
After all the praise I’ve given games for being arty and telling a top-notch story Super Mario 64 runs counter to that logic! There’s little to no story here accept rescue Princess Peach from Bowser. What Super Mario 64 is, is a shining example of a traditional video game. Collect the coins, collect the stars and beat the boss. It’s all here, everything you associate with video games. However, what makes Mario 64 so special is that it does all these aspects so well and it was one of the first to do so in 3D.  

There were other 3D games around at the time but none of them created a fully realised 3D world like this one. Crash Bandicoot was a 3D game but the levels were essentially lattice like corridors rather than a fully three dimensional environment. I remember my first time playing this game at a Toys 'R' Us promo kiosk and it completely blew my mind. I’d never experienced a 3D world you could run around so freely and easily. At the time it just wasn’t even something I thought possible or expected from the gaming world. The fact that one of the first open 3D world platformers is still one of the best, speaks volumes about how good this game is. The levels are incredibly varied, the puzzles are expertly designed and I’d recommend this game to anyone who enjoys video games.

1.The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
OK so here it is my number one game of all time - The Legend of Zelda : Ocarina of Time. A huge open, long-form, action adventure game that excels at everything it touches. Again with this game Nintendo were introducing new ideas in the transition to 3D gaming. It was the first time lock-on targeting (then called "Z-Targeting") and context sensitive buttons were used. These ideas were so strong that they are still widely used today. I’m not sure how Nintendo struck gold with their first 3D iterations of games but struck gold they did. 

The art direction used for the characters and world design is stellar, the gameplay is gripping and the puzzles innovative. This game is unmatched when it comes to the variety of puzzles and diversity of actions. Even mini-games such as fishing are so good they could be fleshed out into their own games. This outstanding game is accompanied by the most memorable melodies you’ll ever hear and it gets my vote for best soundtrack on this list as well. Ocarina of Time is just as important today as it was back then. If for some reason you haven’t played this game, go out of your way to play it! It will be worth it.

So there you have it my top 25 games of all time hope you enjoyed reading it. Let us know some of your favourites in the comments section below and here's a few honourable mentions that crossed my mind.

Honourable Mentions
Super Mario World - Nintendo's most iconic 2D platformer.
Jak and Daxter - An excellent spiritual successor to Crash Bandicoot.
Final fantasy 10 - One of my favourite JRPGs.
Banjo Kazooie - A wonderful platformer from Rare.
Rayman Origins - An excellent modern game still flying the flag for 2D platformers.
Portal - An ingenious puzzle game as stated above.
Pokemon Red and blue  - Because you gotta catch em all!
The Walking Dead season 1 - Raises the bar for emotional story telling in games.
Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2 - The original fun and crazy extreme sports game.

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Dave Lamb's top 25 games of all time.

In light of some of the IGN editors recently sharing their top games, I thought I'd lay down some of the best experiences I've had with gaming. Games are a relatively new medium but there's so much potential in what can be achieved though interactive storytelling. We're still in the early days but many studios are proving why the format can be so powerful. Here's my top 25 favourite games of all time. Enjoy!

25. Skate 2
For a long time, the Tony Hawks series was the king of the extreme sports games and many others copied its formula. Then along came Skate, which completely reinvented the wheel. No longer were you grinding the loops of a rollercoaster. Instead, Skate brought things down to a much more realistic level. Its biggest change was using the right analog stick to perform ollies and flip tricks, by pulling the stick back and flipping it in any direction. After you become accustomed to this, you were left with one of the most realistic and organic action sports games ever created. Added to this is a generously large open world to explore. You can happily skate around at your leisure searching for nice spots to pull off tricks. It’s the finest example a game that captures the feelings associated with the real sport itself. 

24. Devil May Cry                                     
Devil May Cry puts you in the shoes of a half devil anti-hero named Dante, who is rebelling against the Dark Lord himself. This game has some of the most incredible heart stopping action you’ll ever encounter. It creates fluid and exciting combat by effectively combining sword and gunplay. Its revolutionary combat system created its own genre and it was adopted by modern action titans such as Bayonetta and Ninja Gaiden. It has a very stylish atmosphere akin to the Resident Evil series but more gothic and decadent. If you can forgive the slightly wonky camera this game is a real gem. I also thoroughly enjoyed the recent reboot of this series. It was quite underrated and is more than worth a look if you didn’t catch it.

23. Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped
Whatever happened to Crash Bandicoot? Once a world phenomenon but now I wonder if children today would even recognise him. While I won’t get into the mistake Sony made in selling Crash to Activison, the original games made by Naughty Dog are still superb today. At the time, it created a familiar, yet unique formula of platform gameplay that was very enjoyable. The third entry in the series was a particular favourite of mine. At least we can say Naughty Dog went on to bigger and better things. I’m not sure I’d trade The Last of Us for decades of Crash sequels.

At E3 last year Sony showed a live action trailer in which the sign on the left was shown. It's been suggested that the picture is Crash Bandicoot with an arrow pointing towards the Sony logo as show on the right.  Could this possibly mean Crash Bandicoot is returning to the property of Sony? Could we eventually see another high quality first party Crash game from Sony? I for one,  certainly hope so.

22. Halo 
This was the game that gave birth to the modern console first person shooter. It led to the genre becoming the forefront of the industry in the Western world with the likes of Call of Duty. While it didn’t invent the first person shooter it did nail the mechanics on a console for the first time. It effectively used the dual stick layout of the original Xbox to deliver a fluid experience. I enjoyed this game so much that first person shooters became my genre of choice for a quite a few years. Sadly, the current genre behemoth that is Call of Duty has done few favours for the industry by producing the same uninspiring game every year for the sake of profit. If like me you feel disillusioned with COD go back to Halo and remind yourself of the potential of the genre.

21. Metal Gear Solid
One of the first games I played that offered a cinematic experience combined with excellent action/stealth gameplay. It set a new precedent of what was achievable in games. I’d never seen a game offer such a compelling blend of cinematics and gameplay. It was a sign of a shift towards producing grand thematic titles, that games would eventually offer legitimately cinematic aspects as well as an immersive experience.

20. Super Monkey Ball Deluxe
Some great games are also simple. Super Monkey Ball involves navigating a ball around obstacles towards a goal. The player maneuvers the board underneath the ball, causing it to roll. That’s it, no power ups or special moves, just simple gameplay that leads to a challenging and addictive game. It’s most memorable aspect is its turn based multiplayer where players compete to see who can complete the most boards. I had hours of fun playing this with friends and would recommend it to anyone looking for some excellent offline multiplayer fun.

19. SSX3
While I chose Skate (25) because of its realism, SSX3 I chose because it committed itself to the eccentric. This incredibly fun game lets you pull off physically impossible tricks and gets everything right while doing it. Whether its sound, course design or gameplay SSX3 exceeds at all of them. I’d played a few snowboarding games before this series came along but I never realised just how good they could be before SSX3. It’s still unmatched today due to its mechanics and wonderful presentation which makes the game a spectacle to behold. SSX3 is my favourite in the series and I feel it is the best snowboarding game ever, even if it does make the purists furious. 

18. Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic was the reason I started playing video games. I must have only been around 5 years old when I saw and played Sonic at my cousin’s house. It was probably the first time I’d touched a video game and the memory stays with me to this day. While I recognise it technically may not be one of the best games ever made, it holds a special place in my heart for starting my interest in gaming. That said, it’s still a more than worthy platform game that anyone interested the classics should check out and arguably the best all round game in the series!

My love of Sonic also led to this rather extravagant purchase. 

17. Burnout 3: Takedown
I don’t mind realistic racers but Burnout’s insanely fast arcade action is what created my favourite racing game of all time. The game’s extremely fast pace is balanced by not punishing you too much for mistakes and a clever crash system. I’ve never had more fun playing a racing game than I did with Burnout 3. The game also incorporates an excellent crash mode where you try to cause as much damage as possible to the surrounding area. I haven’t liked the series transition into an open world game recently. I just don’t think speed mixes well with tight corners and staring at a mini map. The thrill of belting it down a race track against traffic was the whole reason this game existed.

16. Goldeneye
Goldeneye was the one of the first first-person shooters I had ever played and I was blown away at the time. Although the control scheme may not stand the test of time, it is without doubt the best video game adaptation of a film, an area in which few studios have ever pulled off so well. The game forces you to think before you destroy everything in sight by adding spy based objectives into the mix. This deep gameplay is combined with excellent presentation though skilfully recreated set pieces from the film. I’ll always have fond memories of the 4 player split screen multiplayer as well. This game also receives a bonus point for having the best pause screen ever and we all know why pause screens are important!

15. Grand theft Auto 5
Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA5) is the most impressive technical achievement I’ve seen to date. Not only did Rockstar manage to create a huge open world, they managed to make it incredibly detailed as well. It’s received much criticism for essentially being a crime simulator but there’s no denying its popularity. It’s so huge but also includes so much detail. It’s GTA5’s beyond-obsessive attention to detail that truly sets the game apart from others. Take a street performer in the game, in most other games they would just recite the same action over and over again, till you perhaps run them over and the rag doll physics kick in. Not in GTA5. If you take a picture of them and don’t tip they will become annoyed. If you watch them long enough they may eventually get a phone call and break character. It’s this insane level of detail in parts of the game that many people won’t even encounter that makes GTA5 so special.

14. Skyrim 
Skyrim is one of the finest single player fantasy role playing games going. It takes place in a huge beautifully crafted world, which includes a staggering amount of creatively designed content, and the game gives you an enormous amount of freedom to choose how you play. Don’t fancy the main quest? You can get lost in hours and hours of side quests and exploring. Don’t like hand to hand combat? Then make use of magic and the shouts gained from defeating the huge dragons that roam the lands. Skyrim allows you a wealth of choice when it comes to play styles and narratives, both of which are missing from the GTA universe generally. You can often choose how quests conclude and there’s more freedom to be good or evil without being forced to restart a quest if you kill an NPC you don’t like. The variety here is endless and the whole world is thrilling to explore.

13. Super Smash brothers Melee
This is my favourite multiplayer game of all time. An excellent fighting game where choose one of 25 iconic Nintendo characters to do battle with up to 4 players. While the game may seem simple at first, the depth here comes from the decision making and learning how every action plays out. It’s no button masher and novice players stand little chance against skilled players. It may be a little difficult to attract new players to a clique of experienced players but the enjoyment I’ve had from this fast and frantic game is second to none. It’s still gets broken out every time I’m with my friends I started playing this beauty with over 10 years ago.

12. Psychonauts
I love games with character and Psychonauts has bucket loads of it. A free roaming adventure platformer, where Tim Schafer's comedic stylings make it one of the few games I find genuinely funny. The game has excellent artistic design which is beyond many others. When I first played this game there was a moment that clicked for me when I realised how important variety can be in video games. Psychonauts has diversity between levels, both in aesthetics and gameplay which keeps it feeling fresh throughout the adventure. This is unfortunately something which Activison and EA have made it their mission to ignore. I was pleasantly surprised the first time I played this game and would recommend it to anyone who missed out.

11. Conker's Bad Fur Day
In this game you play as a squirrel who gets so drunk he doesn’t know where he is in the morning and your first task is to cure his hangover. This sets the tone for this twisted adventure which is one of the most hilarious games I’ve ever played. At the time the industry was flooded by cutesy titles like Banjo-Kazooie, the developers were inspired by South Park to make a more adult themed title. The game features a well-written, lewd script that uses witty parodies of the likes of Alien and Saving Private Ryan as themes for the various chapters. This game is a blast from start to finish and there’s never a dull moment. For instance you battle the gargantuan and operatically inclined “Great Mighty Poo” or you meet a talking cog on the wall who demands you recover his counter parts or “fuck off”. It may sound puerile on paper, but Rare's sense of humour really shines through. It’s a shame Rare aren’t still producing games like this rather than terrible Kinect games but that’s another story.

Carry on top my top 10 on page 2

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